On my 5th and final day of this amazing press trip, I woke early to start the last day of my adventure, this is beautiful Beijing-day 5- hometime.
I had about 5 hours before departure and decided to check out the subway and visit Tiananmen Square. I was planning on going alone but two very nice new friends from America asked to come along and it was all the more fun for having a little company.
We walked to Yongali station a short walk from our hotel. The subway system is very easy to understand with coloured lines just like in London, and each ticket machine and sign has English instructions as well as Mandarin script.
We got our tickets and were soon on our way. The carriages were pretty crowded and a little hot, pretty much like the Victoria line back home. They had some nifty features the tube doesn’t though, TV screens showing advertisements and short shows were in each cab and in the tunnels through some unknown technology (at least to me) videos played on the windows or inside of the tunnel walls, it was all very Blade Runner!
Once we emerged we followed the crowds to an unbelievably long line that seemed to go on indefinitely, we weren’t even sure if it was headed in the right direction but we had committed and had to see it through. Guards stood at various points along the line dressed in crisp khaki uniforms.
After about half an hour we made it to the front of the queue which was indeed a security checkpoint to Tiananmen square, once inside we marvelled at the scale of the square and as if on cue, music started to play and the fountains sprang into life, sending sprays of misty water over our clothes and camera lenses.
The portrait of Chairman Mao hung ominously over the proceedings. Small buses designed to look like streetcars passed by on the main street, on the other side of the square an enormous arrangement of flowers, like those that may be seen on a giants dinner table dominated the view, installed to celebrate China’s National Day.
We took the subway home and then in an ode to returning to North American shores we grabbed a burger and a beer for lunch.
After our goodbyes we all left for different check-in counters, returning to our homes in the UK, Canada and all over the United States.
The first leg of my journey took me to Vancouver, the plane was almost empty so I stretched out over three seats and slept almost the whole flight, arriving in Vancouver I decided this 5 hour layover needed to be put to good use, so I jumped on the Skytrain to the waterfront, took a lot of pictures and walked all around the harbour, shops and restaurant area and then stopped for some lunch before heading back on the train to the airport for the last leg back to Ottawa.
This trip has been a wonderful experience for me, the opportunity to meet new people and to network with possible new contacts and to see beautiful Beijing. My impressions on everything I saw and did are numerous and I will be writing several pieces about my experiences. But to sum up my 5 days, Beijing was both clean, modern , exciting, ancient, timeless and unforgettable. I hope very much that this will not be my last trip to China, as I feel I was only able to get a glimpse of everything this amazing country has to offer.